What features of Jane Eyre can be considered Gothic?

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Jane Eyre English Coursework

What features of Jane Eyre can be considered Gothic? You may wish to consider Bronte’s use of language in relation to the following: setting and location; description of atmosphere; description of character; description of key events; and the nature of Rochester’s relationship with Jane.

                       A Gothic novel is a type of literature, which became very popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In this time, society was governed by strict moral codes. The “Gothics” would escape into a world of dark, supernatural and wild passions. The word ‘Gothic’ meant barbarous and wild and many writers liked to involve these elements in their novels. Gothic novels were usually set in foreign countries, particularly in Catholic countries in Southern Europe, and usually set in the past, in the Middle Ages. Many Gothic novels took place in castles, dungeons and monasteries, and were supernatural and mysterious, involving ghosts and monsters.

                Gothic novels often follow this pattern: a young beautiful girl who is rather helpless with no family, is abducted by a rough, dark villain who imprisons her in his castle. After much danger and possible exploitation, she is rescued by a good, pleasant young man who falls in love with her. Gothic novels are always very dramatic and mysterious, with a great deal of detailed description and suspense and tension. Charlotte Bronte did not perhaps aim to write a Gothic novel, but she was perhaps influenced by the books and materials she had read as a child.

                Throughout ‘Jane Eyre’, the location and setting are very important. Jane begins at Gateshead with the Reed family, where she is very excluded and isolated. Sympathy is created for Jane as she is thought of as a weak and vulnerable heroine. This I consider to be very Gothic. “I was a discord in Gateshead Hall: I was like nobody there”. The house is very grand and elaborate with many secret rooms where Jane can hide, for example when Jane reads in the window-seat. The red-room, in which Jane is locked, is an example of the Gothic elements of Gateshead. It was “very seldom slept in” and was “one of the largest and stateliest chambers in the mansion.” Bronte describes this room in huge depth, and gives the reader a strong visual idea of what it looks like; “massive pillars of mahogany” and “curtains of deep red damask”. Jane also describes it as “chill” and “lonely” due to the fact that this was where Mr Reed “breathed his last.” It is also very Gothic when Jane sees the ghost in the room, given that many Gothic novels have monsters or ghosts in them. “Oh! I saw a light”, “I thought a ghost would come.” This is a very significant moment at Gateshead, and Bronte uses descriptive language to build up the suspense and tension, “My heart beat thick”, also  “I was oppressed, suffocated.”

                    The next location Jane goes to is Lowood. The school is described as “a large and irregular building,” It is very run-down and decrepit, and far away from any village or town. Bronte describes it to have a very  “dreary silence,” with “great low-ceiled, gloomy rooms” It is also described as “grey and old” with  “a church-like aspect.” This setting is obviously very Gothic. Here Jane is very alone, and her independence shines through as she moves to her new school. The orphaned girls wore dull uniforms, which consisted of a straw bonnet and a grey cloak. The meals consist of burnt porridge, bread and cheese, and stew and potatoes, but with very little meat. There is a further hint of the Gothic nature in the novel by the way in which Jane is adventurous to escape Lowood and obtain a life outside even though she refers to this opportunity as “a new servitude”.                

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Once Jane has grown up, her next setting is Thornfield Hall, where

she goes to be a governess. Bronte creates a very vivid image of Thornfield Hall, emphasising the Gothic elements to create mystery and terror. The mansion is very large, dark and mystifying. “narrow, low and dim.” Bronte describes the mansion “like a corridor in some Bluebeard’s castle.” Her use of language and description creates an atmosphere filled with the prevalence of mysteries, suspense and ghostly surroundings, “old fashioned” and “dark and low.” The house is an imposing structure, which looks even more ominous at night.  ...

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